The blog I wrote on 29 March entitled “What the Heck is 666 About?” inspired so much interesting and imaginative feedback, I want to share some of these comments, questions and my answers with all of you. I have elaborated on some of my original answers to these friends to better help readers understand the context if they have not yet read the article in question linked here: 666. I suggest those of you newly browsing into this discussion go and read the article at that link.
I do not think 666 is inherently evil. I would imagine that other names besides Nero Kaiser could also add up to 666.
It is a good observation. Many have tried to play with the numbers in very creative ways to use the numerical value given to ancient Greek letters to spell out names that can add up to either 666, or 616, the other name given the Beast by St. John of Patmos in surviving 3rd century copies of the Book of Revelation. There are many more theomantically inclined prophecy watchers living today trying spell out the Beast’s name in their own languages. About a thousand of you have shared your many varied yet all imaginative theories over the years; however, using any language other than Greek or even Hebrew may go against the specific requirements laid out by the Jewish-Christian St. John who only wrote Revelation in Greek:
Here is the key; and anyone who has intelligence may work out the number of the beast. The number represents a man’s name, and the numerical value of its letters is 666. (Book of Revelation, Chapter 13:18)
What narrows the candidates to a 1st century contemporary figure are all the numerous times St. John’s prophecy foresees these events happening “soon” — not two thousand years down the yellow brick doomsday road. It is a point those fixated on Revelation being about our future regularly ignore. How many times does Jesus, channeled by a middleman (or middle-angel) to John, have to say he is coming “soon” before interpreters get it that this is about a near 1st-Century future?
If one is to look for other names than Caligula and Nero there are few to be considered from that century. Just how many leaders of an Empire are there to pick from? Does Titus or Tiberius, Vespasian or Augustus, or Claudius fit in the Greek-to-number game?
No, the numbers hatch out for two of the maddest Emperors of that time: the megalomaniacal kitsch harping artist-cum-capital burner and feeder of lions with Christians, Nero Caesar (“Neron Kaiser” in Greek — 666). The other in Greek, “Kaligula Kaiser” (616), stands for a predecessor, the wigged out Caligula Caesar, who thought he was the god Jupiter, impregnated his sister then ate the unborn child. Now there is a real pair of Beasts.
It must also be remembered that Nero ordered the crushing of the Jewish rebellion that led to the sacking and destruction of the Jewish Temple and Jerusalem. That would be something apocalyptic indeed to foretell if John had written his prophecy before the fall of Judea to the Roman gladius sword and flame. Nero did not live to see it. He fell on his knife in 68 C.E., the year before Roman legions laid siege to Jerusalem.
There was an apocryphal story spread over the Mediterranean that Nero had been wounded in the head and rose from the dead. It seems St. John of Patmos adopted that story for his prophecies too as his Beast foretold suffered a head wound and rose from the dead a false superman.
I wonder what St. John’s vision was like. Could he have seen up typing away at these infernal machines?¬¨‚Ä† Is prophetic vision like watching TV or does one perceive other things? I wonder, because in this age our alphabet has come to be represented digitally.
I will run the danger of sounding glib. They call them “visions” I guess because they are so visual. Few visions are morE fantastic in description, if not even psychotic in their luridness, than the passages of St. John of Patmos. What a movie John had playing inside his skull. Clearly, like Nostradamus, he saw as well as heard and smelled the future. The modus operandi changes through the times but essentially the “vision” is up-penned, up-typed, or in the future, uploaded direct into the brain of those the visionary intends should heed his prophecy.
One of the most prominent standards is the American Society for Computer Information Interchange (ASCII). Each character on the keyboard (upper and lower case) and many others are represented by numbers. Could 666 be an ASCII code?
It is a great question and worthy of investigation. Any answer, though, is constrained by other evidence pointing with surprisingly direct hints for a prophet, that Revelation is a near future event for those of St. John’s generation, and that the leader is a Roman emperor of a Mediterranean empire of the first century and not a European Union of the 21st.
Still, how does one explain the futuristic reference to the number of the Beast being put upon the hand and forehead of the citizens?
Is this literal or symbolic? There is much symbolic language in Revelation. Where do we draw the line and seek a literal meaning?
John of Patmos, like many seers, may be a little crazy. Is he seeing the vision right, waxing symbolic or having a psychotic episode where people run around with 666 scratched on their foreheads and right hands?
Something to meditate on before the next installment of your questions and comments.
(04 April 2009)